Smokin’ in Paris

My mother has flown home. The kids are back at school, and I am finally settling back into a routine.
I love my routines! I know that towards the end of the school year I long for the mornings when I no longer have to rouse four sleepy heads out of bed, or crack the whip over their homework. But come September, that back to school feeling caresses me with its calming touch.
Why do we like our routines so much? Why is it that if we have an interruption or break in our routine, particularly one which is unexpected, then it can knock us slightly off balance.
A gentler reason for this is simply the support structure of our routine habits. I like to get up half an hour earlier than I need to so that I can have a quiet cup of tea before the day kicks in. If I slightly oversleep, or if one of the kids wakes early and invades that half hour of space, it can put me slightly off kilter. We call this cognitive dissonance. It is that feeling that something is not quite right, that something is missing, even if we cannot quite put our finger on what it is.
Being the pleasure seeking highly complex characters that we are though, this simple ‘habit’ in a cranial environment of mismanaged thinking, can soon take on sinister turns. Habits soon become ‘addictions’, which no longer provide gentle support. Rather they become a crutch, a necessity, the central focus of our being.
Smoking is a habit. Pure and simple. But because smokers attach so much pleasure to their cigarettes, then justification for this filthy, unsociable health damaging habit has become entrenched in addiction myths and psychological compensation. A smoker who habitually smokes at certain times of the day is going to miss those cigarettes if he stops them – but a little bit of conscious persistence and effort, and he will soon break the habit cycle.
I experimented with myself this summer, just so that I could prove a point – Until about 14 years ago I was a hardened packet a day smoker. On a sociable day (and there were many of those as it was pre-kids) then two packets were not unheard of. Then I made the decision that I should give up, and using one session of hypnotherapy I stopped smoking immediately, have never smoked since, and have never wanted to smoke.
Until this summer!
This August I had the fantastic opportunity to spend a few days in Paris with a very dear old university friend of mine, whom I had not seen for 16 years. As a student of French, I used to enjoy many a trip to this gorgeous country, believing myself to be a cool European as I sipped strong black coffees and smoked filterless Gauloises and Camels in busy street cafes.
So in a fit of memory lane, buoyed by a glass or three of ‘du vin rosé’, we headed into the nearest ‘tabac’ (which happened to be run by a Turk) for an illicit packet of Marlborough Lights.
I smoked two cigarettes that night. There is supposedly enough nicotine in two cigarettes to get ‘hooked’ again. But guess what? I woke the next morning with no desire to smoke. No withdrawal symptoms. No cravings. No urge to go out and smoke another 20 cigarettes. No sense that now I had broken the no-smoking behaviour, I may as well go out and start again.
That is because cravings, nicotine addiction, withdrawal symptoms, are concepts fed by mismanaged thinking around someone’s smoking habit.
And the good news is – you can very quickly learn how to better manage your thinking. And once you can better manage your thinking, giving up smoking is really very very easy!

The evocative nature of our senses

I do think that sounds and smells are often more evocative than sight.

I can remember a vivid dream I had just a few months after the death of my father. His voice was coming through to me so clearly – he was talking to me for some reason in a car park.

To hear his voice again after such a long time was both upsetting, and glorious.

There are some smells and sounds that can literally make my head spin with emotion.

If I smell Ralph Lauren Polo aftershave, I am immediately taken back to my dad sitting at the kitchen table at breakfast time, and the feeling of security, belonging to a happy family home.

Honeysuckle transports me back to my garden in Turkey, and the deep relaxation induced by intense heat.

The smell of stale beer takes me to the local pub in the village where I grew up – and the deep embarrassment of being scrutinised by adults.

The squawking of seagulls reminds me of the years I spent in Bath – the freedom and the frustrations of those single twenties.

Raw scooter engines in the early morning take me back to student days in the south of France, and the fear and excitement of a young girl entering unknown territory.

Puccini’s aria Nessun Dorma reduces me to tears every single time – it was played at my wedding, and reminds me once again of my father.

The whiff of lotion from a packet of Johnson’s Baby Wipes has me sat breast feeding on my sofa in the UK, watching ITV’s This Morning in my gloriously un-intellectual baby bubble.

Fresh basil simply gladdens my heart.

The evocative nature of sounds and smells actually demonstrates how strong our imagination can be.

That the mere sniff of a certain smell can take you to the depths of despair, or the heights of pleasure, is very little to do with the provenance of the smell, but rather the way we think about it.

For example, Polo aftershave is a happy, secure smell for me – it resonates with happy, secure childhood years.

For others it may fill them with dread. Maybe it is the smell of a bad relationship, an abusive father, an over-bearing teacher at school, or simply a stinking hangover the morning after.

But that whiff can set off a train of thoughts that your imagination can then grab and run away with to all sorts of places.

So good smells / sounds can set you off on a good train of thought.

Bad smells / sounds can set you off on a bad train of thoughts.

If you’re a slave to your thoughts, a bad smell can ruin your whole day. By bringing forth one bad memory/thought, you can allow that thought to ferment and grow in an overactive imagination into the biggest blackest cloud.

And if you’re prone to depression and anxiety, that is one place you really don’t want to go.

So you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Learning to manage your thinking better liberates you from being triggered by uncontrollable external influences.

Just imagine that sense of freedom.

Here’s an example – the smell of cigarettes for an ex-smoker will no longer have them reaching immediately for a pack.

Another one – that whiff of red win for an alcoholic will no longer send them into a paroxysm of temptation.

Learning to manage your thinking is not easy – a certain amount of persistent, consistent effort is required. But it IS do-able. Just go for it…….

10 most BRILLIANT tips if you want to change your mindset!

1. Thoughts do not come out of nowhere – YOU create them. Having created a thought, it is totally in your power to get rid of that thought. So if you have created a negative, life limiting, damaging thought CHUCK IT IN THE RUBBISH BIN AND SLAM THE LID DOWN ON IT HARD!

2. Think PINK ELEPHANTS. If you are denying yourself something, you’re actually bringing that thought to the forefront of your mind. Never deny yourself anything. Instead, make a choice that is good for you, and move on!!!

3. Be kind to yourself! Would you talk to a child in the same way that you talk to yourself sometimes? Well of course not – so STOP IT!

4. Praise yourself EVERYDAY! and on bad days, praise yourself EVEN MORE!

5. We have, minimum, 60,000 thoughts a day. If the majority of these or negative, no wonder your mind is so fucked up. Change the ratio – make most, if not all, positive (re-read #1.)

6. Ease up on what you expect from yourself. It’s never about being perfect, but about making sure you’re on the right track and moving forward.

7. Tolerate a little bit of discomfort. It won’t kill you!!

8. Use the RESET button! Fucking up doesn’t have to mean giving up. Learn where you went wrong then HIT RESET!

9. Remember – the mind acts upon the body, and the body acts upon the mind. Give your physical health the best possible chance by looking after your emotional health. And equally, give your emotional health the best possible chance by looking after your physical health.

10. Emotions are not bottled up, but created in the moment. Learn to keep a PERSPECTIVE on any situation, and maintain appropriate emotions!

I’ve plenty more where this comes from – I welcome any questions.

Kate Ashley-Norman

PS – number 11 would be: PACE – Persistent And Continuous Effort.

When losing the battle can actually be a good thing!

I’m battling with my four year old at the moment.
She’s ultra strong willed. Demanding. Stubborn. Bossy.
It makes for some pretty tough battles at times – most of which she wins!!!!
[Though I am selective in the battles I allow her to win!]
But actually, I admire her for fighting for what she wants. And if I don’t give it to her, then she gets up and gets it herself.
Mealtimes is a fine example.
Rarely does she eat what I have prepared for everyone else. Rather, she’d get her chair, push it to the cupboard, and get herself down a tin of tuna and a tin of sweetcorn which she likes to eat mixed up in a bowl, nothing added (not even a dollop of mayonnaise!)
I’m actually rather proud of her.
She is demonstrating a growth mindset.
– the willingness to challenge herself.
– to put herself at risk of failure, or disapproval.
– to not accept the status quo if it does not suit what she wants.
– to put the effort in to getting what she wants.
Research shows that a person with a growth mindset is less likely to suffer from depression.
A person with a growth mindset is more likely to achieve success, but more importantly, achieve success on their terms and with a deep seated confidence and resilience.
A person with a fixed mindset is more likely to fear pushing their boundaries.
Will actively avoid going beyond the boundaries of their capabilities because they don’t know how to handle failure.
A person with a fixed mindset can achieve greatness, but live in constant fear of being ‘found out’.
And here’s the thing – your mindset is just a belief, and you can challenge that belief.
I actively encourage this trait in my children, teaching them to try and fail, and try again, rather than expecting top grades all the time.
The trouble with constantly coming top of the class, is that there is nowhere else to go but down.
And if you have not learned how to handle failure, it becomes a much greater obstacle to overcome.
Fear of failure.
Something that plagues us all at one time or another.
Or for some of us, all the time!

Changing that mindset is easy when going through The Thrive Programme. It shows you how neither fear, nor failure, need exist.

Because your fear is just a bad use of your imagination.
And failure is just an opportunity to try another way.
And I can show you how to permanently shift your focus.

I told my daughter I’d rather be stupid – here’s why.

My daughter came up with that classic question the other night –
“Mum, would you rather be stupid and beautiful, or clever and ugly?”
So how would you have answered?
My standard answer to this has always been –
“Well lucky for me I am both gorgeous AND clever!”
Except on those days when I feel ugly and stupid of course!
But she didn’t accept that, and as the conversation progressed, I did admit that actually, I think I’d rather be beautiful and stupid. If only because I wouldn’t need to think that deeply about not being intelligent!
But is that the right lesson to be teaching my daughter.
Intelligent people are, by their very nature, thinkers.
And if you’re reading this email it is probably because you are an intelligent person who ruminates on life a fair amount.
And the trouble with rumination, is it can lead to depression and anxiety (and there’s plenty of evidence to back this up too).
So being ugly and clever could actually mean that you overthink your ugly role in life to the point that you become depressed.
Where am I going with this?
Well I don’t actually like to classify people as clever or stupid – rather there are those of a fixed mindset, and those of a growth mindset.
And those with a fixed mindset will keep hitting brick walls in life, and find to more and more difficult to pick themselves up, or move forward and try different tactics.
And if they are ‘intelligent’ then they won’t want to fail because they won’t want to look stupid – so they don’t even try! And if they’re ‘short of a few brain cells’, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ve been labelled this all their lives, so feel it impossible to change and improve their intelligence by – you’ve guessed it – challenging themselves and putting in some effort.
So depression and anxiety is a common affliction.
Those with a growth mindset – they take every knock as a reason to get up again. They demonstrate psychological resilience to face whatever life throws at them, and learn from it.
And the good news – your mindset is just a belief system, and can be changed.
And it can be changed pretty much immediately!
How?
By learning emotional intelligence and psychological resilience.
Again, how?
Need I say more….>
Kate ‘I think that ALL women are beautiful’ Ashley-Norman

My body may get some abuse, but I treat my mind like a temple!

 

I love travel shows – especially those including food (I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain… have a massive crush on him actually. If anyone knows him, let him know :))
I particularly love it when shows go to far out wild and wacky places, such as a recent BBC one I watched about Mongolia.
Having spent a month in Novosibirsk in Siberia many years ago, I do have an unquenched interest in this part of the world.
Anyway…. the reporter was describing how the visit to a particular Temple was often made to generate ‘energy’ for particular events, such as a wrestling competition he was about to enter.
This particular temple apparently encouraged you to leave any negative, harmful thoughts outside. The temple guardians were obviously guarding their sacred place against negative energy.
How interesting that they obviously believed that, simply by asking you to rid yourself of negative thoughts before entering, they knew that people would just do so.
No one was going to sit in a panic on the front step and bemoan the fact that they can’t rid themselves of these bad thoughts.
No one was going to sneak inside hoping that the temple folk wouldn’t notice their bad thoughts!
I imagine that 99.9% of visitors thought to themselves – yes, this is a sacred temple. My nasty, bad tempered mood can stay here on the outside because I certainly do not want to sully my chance of getting that much needed energy. So let me park them here, and I’ll pick them up again on the way out!
Just. Like. That.
 Just like that visitors park their unhelpful, negative thoughts on the front steps of the temple and walk inside, free, and receptive to replenishing their energy levels.
The thing is, they believed they could do that just because they were entering a sacred place.
And we attribute a lot of value to the sacredness of particular places – often believing them to be sacred simply because they have been said to be so for many many years. Yet there is rarely any real, scientific proof that sacredness exists in this way, or indeed in any way!
So here’s an idea – you know the phrase ‘my body is a temple’? Well why not simply make your mind a temple? You certainly don’t need to go all the way to Mongolia to do that.
Need some help?

Have a look at this – The Thrive Programme – all evidence-based. No magic needed!

WARNING: It is a journey of self discovery that will take you to being the brilliant person you know you deserve to be. But you’ve got to WANT to do it. Because there’s a fair amount of work involved.
Certainly not for the faint hearted.
But then they never did win the fair maiden (is there a male equivalent of maiden?)
Kate ‘my mind’s a temple but my body takes a bit of abuse at times’ Ashley-Norman

Infertility & Childbirth: part 1

Getting pregnant, having a child, creating a family, is probably the most life changing, terrifying, exhilarating, expensive and emotional journey you can ever embark on. For some it comes as a complete surprise. For others it is all part of a carefully choreographed map through life.
But for thousands of others it can become a futile and heartbreaking series of want and despair, when months and years pass by with no sign of any baby on the horizon. Getting pregnant is hard enough. For many, maintaining that pregnancy to full term can mean week upon week of absolute terror.
Infertility – a source of sadness, of pain, of confusion. Equally, unexplained infertility – when the medical experts can find absolutely no physical reason for the infertility – can leave many emotionally distraught and guilt stricken. Stress and anxiety set in. The highs of getting pregnant are constantly overridden by the lows of miscarriage.
Ironic isn’t it, that the one thing we protect ourselves against as responsible, sexually active adults – unwanted pregnancies – becomes the one thing that so evades us when we are ready to take that family plunge.
And so, month after month passes. Maybe there is no second blue line. Maybe you’re onto you’re fourth or fifth miscarriage. The inconclusive intrusion of the doctors scratching around for a possible reason, the desperate search for something – anything – that might help, no matter how weird and wacky – just add layer upon layer of doubt and insecurity. Doubt leads to doubt leads to doubt, leading to the deepening belief that having a family is just something that is not for us.
The trouble is, every thought we have has a physical effect on our bodies.
If we belief something so stringently, then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
Coue’s Law is one of the most fundamental concepts that we teach people who go through the Thrive Programme. Coue’s Law states: “When the imagination and the conscious will are in conflict, the imagination invariably gains the day.” (Brooks, 1922).
So, if you are desperate for a child, you do everything you can to have a child. But at the back of your mind is that constant lingering doubt and fear. You fear not becoming pregnant. You are consciously trying for a child, but your imagination is getting in the way every time.
The Thrive Programme can teach you how to better manage your thinking, how to use your imagination for a more positive desired result, how to reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
The Thrive Programme will not help you get pregnant, but it will help you to create, in your own mind and body, the best possible environment for conception and nurturing to take place.
But more than this, it will help you to build the strength and psychological resilience you need if the results are not the desired outcome. You may not ultimately get what you want, but you do not have to spend the rest of your life mourning this fact.
No matter where in the world you are, Thrive in Turkey can help you get psychologically strong. Face to face or via Skype. Weekly sessions or intensively on one of our residential courses. Contact Kate on 00 90 544 3298466 if you would like to talk your needs through in more detail.

Infertility & childbirth part 2 to come.

Post Partum Depression – looking for a way out!

Recently I wrote a blog post about depression, and how depression can actually be seen as a positive process to go through, and to come out of the other end stronger.
To follow on from this, I have recently devoured a number of Elif Şafak’s fantastic books. In her work ‘Black Milk’, she chronicled her journey through post partum depression. The way she described coming through it in the end is an absolute reflection of the statements I was making in my previous blog. As she says: “I think I needed to live through this depression to better reassemble the pieces.”
Looking back on her depression, Elif now sees that she purposefully, though subconsciously at the time, invited depression into her life.
“The end to my post partum depression came more of its own accord, with the completion of some inner cycle. Only when the time was right, when I was “right”, did I get out of that dark, airless rabbit hole. Just as a day takes twenty four hours and a week takes seven days, just as a butterfly knows when to leave its cocoon and a seed knows when to spring into flower, just as we go through stages of development, just as everything and everyone in this universe has a “use by” date, so does post partum depression.”
Elif goes on to say:
“Every woman requires a varying amount of time to complete the cycle. For some it takes weeks, for others more than a year. But no matter how complex or dizzying it seems to be, every labyrinth has a way out.
All you have to do is walk toward it.”
If you are struggling through any kind of depression, the Thrive Programme will give you the skills and resources necessary to reach that way out and step through it energetically, positively, psychologically stronger, and without a backward glance!

Shit Happens!

I am going to confess something on this blog. I’ve been really struggling lately. You see, as a Thrive consultant, it is important that I practice what I preach, but these last couple of weeks I do admit that I have really been having to dig deep. I won’t go into detail as to the whys and wherefores – suffice to say that a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears were not paying off, and I was floundering as to where to go next. I’d hit a brick wall.
The reason why I want to confess this here is because this is precisely what the Thrive Programme is all about – reality! We are not promoting some fluffy spiritual nirvana where the universe will provide if you want something enough and send out lots of positive energy. We don’t encourage people to keep smiling and ‘making the best of’ a bad situation. We don’t belittle your own problems by comparing them to all the starving children in Africa, or other major/minor tragedies, so just count yourself lucky!
Not at all! The Thrive Programme is about understanding that shit happens. You lose jobs, lose money, lose health, lose friends and lovers. You may take a wrong turn into a big black hole. Someone may dump on you from a great height.
What Thrive helps you to do is to get through those hard times and come out the other end psychologically strong and intact. It helps you to sort the wheat from the chaff, and gain perspective on what is important. We are building psychological resilience.
Every time I hit a wall and come out the other side, I believe I grow both as a person, and a Thrive Consultant. It is my absolute delight to be able to help others do this too.

Family Conflict – how to Thrive through arguments

The picture postcard view of family life is always roses round the door, laughing together in mutual admiration. But we all know that family life can usually be a hotbed of simmering anger and resentment. Relationship dynamics – husband/wife/partner, parents/children, step-relations, best friends, housemates – whatever the connections, arguing is a situation where we all find ourselves sooner or later – and it’s not pleasant.
How often do we get frustrated and angry at someone because we want to get our point across and they are simply not ‘getting it!’ Similarly, the converse is true, when someone wants us to do something, or be someone that we are not, and we do not want to change the way we are. Our desire for control is strong, yet we feel powerless to be able to change their opinions in any way – therefore we get angry.
The trouble is, when these arguments happen again and again, they soon begin to erode our own sense of self, and just make us feel paranoid, belittled, attacked. The lower our self esteem, the more these interpersonal conflicts can affect our emotional well being, our stress levels. We question ourselves, even if we don’t want to!
Equally we fear being judged by the very people who are meant to love and support us no matter what. This fear of being judged puts us on the defensive, makes us paranoid.
Thrive is a perfect programme for all the family to go through if there are issues of conflict and control. It helps families to rediscover a more natural and harmonious sense of growing together, in which limiting belief systems are quickly identified and deconstructed, to be replaced with more empowering, constructive and forward looking belief systems. However, even if your family unit was resistant to the thought of ‘Thriving’, it absolutely gives the individual a greater grasp on their own thinking and cognitive abilities, developing greater strength and power in overcoming conflict.
Look at this quote from the research paper ‘Paranoia and the Structure of Powerlessness’, Mirowsky & Ross, 1983.
“Belief in an external locus of control is a learned, generalised world view that encompasses a sense of powerlessness, strain and self-estrangement. It is learned in the course of everyday life and is the first step in the descent to paranoia. The individual who believes in external control is readily moved by events and experiences to the next step: mistrust.”
“In the case of paranoia the person senses a negative relationship with a set of persons in the social environment. The perception may be correct or it may be a delusion, although it seems likely that such a delusion has self-fulfilling tendencies (Kohn, 1973: Lemert, 1962). In either case, the perception itself is real and represents a deep alienation of the person from at least some of the people in his or her social world.”
Coming through any conflict intact is down to you creating an internal locus of control, increasing your self esteem and lowering your social anxiety.
These arguments tend to be with your nearest and dearest. Those closest to you can sometimes be your worst enemies – not in the way that they want to hurt you, but because 99% of the time they are having their own battles with limiting belief systems, distorted thinking and increasing anxiety, and we tend not to pretend all is well with those nearest to us.
When you are badly managing your thinking, your stress levels can go through the roof. The more stressed you get, the less perspective you get on a situation. You have the snow globe effect with thoughts spinning uncontrollably round and round in your mind, you get angry and frustrated. The more stressed you are, the more in the red you are, the quicker you’re going to get angry. And we all know that being angry is the worst possible state to be in when having a difficult ‘discussion’ with someone you love.
And as the research says above, your (negative) relationship becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You become hypervigilant about all the negative things that ‘could’ be said – regardless of whether or not they are said. (We’ve all had the feeling that words are put into our mouths, or the person we’re arguing with only see what he/she wants to see).
So, other than raising your self esteem, lowering your social anxiety, and developing an internal locus of control, what else can we be doing to effectively manage our thoughts during times of stress?
1. Recognise these limiting traits in the person you are arguing with, and realise that what they are saying are more a result of their own limiting beliefs, desire for control and mismanaged thinking.
2. Don’t confuse your desire for control with gaining a sense of powerfulness – they are two completely different things. Recognise that you cannot control another’s thoughts, words or actions, in the same way that they cannot control yours. However, you CAN control the way you react to others.
3. Get a copy of the Thrive Programme workbook and read the chapter on stress and anxiety to understand not just how to control yours, but rather how not to create it in the first place! The less stressed you are, the less likely a simple discussion will escalate into a full blown argument.
4. Recognise the paranoia and hypervigilance in your thinking. Remember, the more your focus on the negative, the less perspective you’ll have overall.
5. Don’t turn into a ‘significant other’. Use positive, empowering language.
6. Finally, DON’T OBSESS about what has been said in an argument. Don’t turn it over and over in the mind, ‘chewing the arse off it’. Choose to move on, and not dwell. And if the attacks on your own self esteem have been particularly virulent, then go straight back to processing your positives, to recharge that self esteem battery. This is all about building psychological resilience, and the more recharging you do, the stronger you’ll be (and ultimately less recharging will be needed in the future!).
If you feel that your relationships and family life is suffering through emotional conflict, stress and anxiety, then a course of Thrive will help the whole family to feel more in control and powerful about resolving conflict without the need for arguments. Call me (Kate) anytime on (00 9)0 544 3298466 to talk through in more detail how.